Two freshmen Republican legislators, Assemblywomen Vicky Flynn (R-Holmdel) and Kim Eulner (R-Shrewsbury), are criticizing Democratic leadership in the State Assembly for “mansplaining” after both were blocked in their attempts to refocus the Assembly’s agenda during last week’s voting session.
While trying to speak on student learning loss and school shooting prevention, Flynn and Eulner were “spoken over, interrupted, and bullied by male Democrats while their female caucus members watched silently,” argued a statement released by the Assembly Republican office.
For Flynn, the showdown arrived when a bill allocating $15 million per year for electric school buses came up for a vote. Flynn argued that the bill was siphoning away funding that should instead go towards addressing student learning loss from the pandemic, but her digressions were repeatedly shut down by Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Benjie Wimberly (D-Paterson), who was presiding at the time.
“My fellow members, the time has come,” Flynn said. “$2 million is woefully insufficient to address learning loss. We have to shift the priorities of this legislature.”
“Assemblywoman, the bill is on electric buses,” Wimberly countered. “You are not on the bill.”
Flynn ultimately proposed a hostile amendment to move the electric bus bill back into committee so that it could be amended to address learning loss. After a brief, chaotic moment in which several different legislators rose to support or oppose Flynn’s maneuver, Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Voorhees) successfully moved to table the motion; the bill itself passed soon afterwards on a largely party-line vote.
Eulner’s tangle with legislative leadership came later in the session, when she rose to propose that a bill she sponsored to require police training on school shooting incidents be moved out of committee and put before the full Assembly for a vote.
“I can’t imagine the pain these people are going through, having to bury their children,” Eulner said of last week’s shooting in Uvalde, Texas. “It’s a sin if we don’t pass this today.”
But Eulner’s two attempts to make her bill an emergency, and thus get it to the floor, were ruled out of order by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) due to it not yet being on second reading; at one point, the speaker cut Eulner’s microphone when she continued speaking. (Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio (R-Hackettstown)’s challenge to the speaker’s ruling was voted down by the full Assembly.)
“I have no idea what you’re presenting,” Greenwald said in an effort to explain why Eulner’s bill couldn’t be abruptly brought to a vote. “I appreciate what you’re doing, I appreciate your passion. I’d like to have a conversation with you before you ask every member of this house to have a debate on something that we’ve never seen.”
Both Flynn and Eulner are Monmouth County Republicans who beat incumbents in 2021: Flynn defeated Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Holmdel) in the Republican primary with the support of the Monmouth Republican organization, while Eulner and Assemblywoman Marilyn Piperno (R-Colts Neck) narrowly prevailed over two Democratic incumbents in a major upset.
Their victories, among others around the state, gave Assembly Republicans their largest caucus in two decades. And this session, with even more legislative gains possible in 2023, the party has proven increasingly willing to push back against Democratic legislative leadership despite controlling few formal levers of power.